After a nail biter of a final week, the twelve teams are ready to go at it in the NFL Playoffs next weekend as the final spots were filled on Sunday in the league's final weekend of the regular season.
The Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) pulled out a road win in Chicago, 33-28 as quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit wide receiver Randall Cobb for a 48-yard touchdown pass with just 38 seconds left in the game to give the Packers the NFC North division title for the third straight season.
The Bears (8-8) blew an eight point fourth quarter lead as Rodgers (318 yards passing with two TD passes and two interceptions) led two scoring drives in the final twelve minutes of the game. Chicago running back Matt Forte' rushed for 110 yards and scored twice on the ground while QB Jay Cutler threw for two scores in the loss.
|Saints QB Drew Brees|
The Cardinals lost their game anyway, 23-20 to the visiting San Francisco 49ers (12-4), who were already in the NFC playoffs.
Arizona (10-6) rallied back from 17-0 deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter when QB Carson Palmer threw a 34-yard TD pass to WR Andre Roberts with 3:20 remaining. From there, the teams exchanged field goals with 49ers' kicker Phil Dawson nailing the game winning 40-yard field goal as time expired.
The Carolina Panthers (12-4) won the NFC South division title with a 21-20 road win against the Atlanta Falcons as QB Cam Newton hit tight end Greg Olsen for a seven-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter to make the difference.
The Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) outlasted the host Dallas Cowboys, 24-22 on Sunday Night Football to clinch the NFC East division and gain the final playoff spot. Dallas finished 8-8 and lost out on a playoff spot in the final game for the third straight season.
Eagles QB Nick Foles had two touchdown passes and 263 passing yards while running back LeSean McCoy won the NFL regular season rushing crown as he ran for 131 yards in the win. Dallas QB Kyle Orton, filling in for injured starter Tony Romo, passed for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions, including one picked off by Brandon Boykin, which sealed the win for the Eagles.
In the AFC, the only question was which one of four teams would get the final playoff spot?
It all came down to a 41-yard field goal attempt by Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop to determine whether the Pittsburgh Steelers or San Diego Chargers would get the sixth spot.
|Chargers' QB Philip Rivers celebrates after win got his team into the NFL Playoffs.|
San Diego needed to win and have the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins lose their games, which did happen and propelled the 'Bolts to the playoffs and knocked the Ravens, Steelers and Dolphins out.
Chargers' QB Philip Rivers had three touchdown passes and running back Ryan Mathews rushed for 144 yards to overcome a Chiefs team that was playing basically the entire second unit as the starters
were rested because KC had already locked up the number-five spot in the AFC playoffs.
Pittsburgh (8-8) did their part earlier in the day, winning at home, 20-7 against the Cleveland Browns, who fired Head Coach Rob Chudzinski following the game. Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger threw a TD pass and Le'Veon Bell (90 yards rushing) scored a rushing touchdown to lead the way.
The New York Jets (8-8) stunned the host Miami Dolphins (8-8) and kept them from making the playoffs with a 20-7 victory led by a defense that intercepted Miami QB Ryan Tannehill three times.
The Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) secured the number-three AFC playoff seed with a 34-17 thrashing of the visiting Baltimore Ravens (8-8) that eliminated the defending Super Bowl champions.
Bengals' QB Andy Dalton overcame four interceptions by running for a score and passing for two touchdowns in the win. The Bengals defense intercepted Baltimore QB Joe Flacco three times (including a pick six INT) and limited the Ravens to just 222 yards in total offense.
The New England Patriots (12-4) rolled past the visiting Buffalo Bills, 34-20 behind running back LaGarrette Blount, who had two scoring runs while going for 189 yards on the ground. The Patriots totaled 267 yards rushing for the game, which was played in a driving rain storm.
Denver smashed the host Oakland Raiders, 34-14 as QB Peyton Manning added to the records he has broken this season with four more TD passes (55 for the season) and also broke the NFL record for most passing yardage in a single season by passing for 266 yards in the first half to break the previous record (5,476 yards) held by Saints' QB Drew Brees by just one yard (5,477 yards). The Broncos (13-3) have the home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Elsewhere around the NFL . . . . . .
The Seattle Seahawks (13-3) locked up home field advantage in the NFC playoffs with a 27-9 beatdown of the visiting St. Louis Rams as their defense held the Rams to just 13 rushing yards and 158 total yards of offense for the game . . . The New York Giants (7-9) finished a dismal season with a 20-6 home win against the Washington Redskins (3-13), which finished the season with eight straight losses . . . The Tennessee Titans (7-9) handed the visiting Houston Texans (2-14) their 14th consecutive loss, winning 16-10 behind Chris Johnson, who scored a TD and gained 127 yards rushing in the win . . . The Indianapolis Colts (11-5) prepared for the playoffs by whipping the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, 30-10 . . . The Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions, 14-13 in a game that saw both teams' Head Coaches (Jim Schwartz - Detroit and Leslie Frazier - Minnesota) fired following the season finale . . . Other Head Coaches fired following Week 17 - Mike Shanahan - Washington . . . Greg Schiano - Tampa Bay . . . and Houston's Gary Kubiak, who was actually fired earlier this month.